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Grab a can of pumpkin puree and a loaf of challah bread because you’ll want to make this fantastic Pumpkin Bread Pudding with silky Bourbon Sauce.
Pumpkin season is an exciting time at our house. We LOVE all things made with canned pumpkin puree. From Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie to smoothies, spiced pumpkin oatmeal cookies and of course our favorite showstopper spiced pumpkin cheesecake.
If you love to put pumpkin in everything and anything, then this Pumpkin Bread Pudding might just be your next favorite autumnal dessert. 🍁
Why we love this Pumpkin Bread Pudding
This bread pudding is very easy to make. Using store-bought challah bread and canned pumpkin puree, all you need to do is mix and bake.
Pumpkin is an amazing force in baked goods. It can even be used in place of an egg in many recipes. Simply substitute 1/3 cup of pumpkin puree for one of the eggs in your recipe.
Finally, add plenty of warm cozy spices like pumpkin spice, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and fresh grated nutmeg. With very little effort you can turn basic pantry ingredients into an incredible, memorable dessert loaded with great textures and flavor.
- loaf of rich challah bread cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- egg yolks (reserve whites for another use like pumpkin macarons!)
- canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
- granulated sugar
- light brown sugar
- vanilla extract
- half-and-half or a combination of heavy cream and whole milk
- whole milk
- pumpkin spice
- bourbon (optional)
For the topping:
- light brown sugar
- coarse sugar or granulated sugar
- unsalted butter, melted
- chopped pecans
Bourbon sauce (if using):
- heavy cream
- granulated sugar
- unsalted butter
OVERVIEW: How to make Pumpkin Pudding
1. First, prepare the pudding
Preheat the oven and grease a 13×9-inch baking pan.
Cut the challah into cubes and spread on two large rimmed baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes or until the bread if just dry. Remove 2 cups of bread cubes and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl whisk together the egg yolks, pumpkin puree, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, salt, bourbon (if using) and spices. Whisk in the half-and-half and milk. Add the remaining 8 cups of bread cubes to the pumpkin mixture. Gently fold together using a spatula.
Spoon the pudding mixture into the prepared pan and let stand for 30 minutes. Spread the reserved 2 cups of dry bread cubes over the top. Gently press the cubes into the custard.
2. Prepare the topping
Combine the brown sugar and coarse sugar in a small bowl. Brush melted butter over the crusty bread cubes. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the buttered cubes and scatter chopped pecans over the entire dish.
3. Bake the pudding
Place the pudding on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the custard is just set, about 45 to 50 minutes.
The mixture should register 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the pudding.
Cool on a rack for 45 to 60 minutes before serving.
4. Make the bourbon sauce (if using)
While the pudding is cooling whisk together the cornstarch and about half the bourbon in a small bowl. Set aside. Heat the cream and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low and cook until the sauce is thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the butter, salt and all remaining bourbon.
Drizzle or pour warm bourbon sauce over slices of bread pudding and serve.
The best bread to use for bread pudding
Many bakers find that using soft crusted Italian or French bread works well in bread puddings. However, we’ve always had great success with egg-enriched challah bread as the main ingredient so we’ll stick with that. We love it in our Apple Bread Pudding as much as we do in this recipe.
If you can’t find challah bread at your grocery store or local bakery, try using a good quality white sandwich bread such as Arnold’s Country Classics or Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Hearty White.
What makes a great bread pudding?
Start with a great bread like the egg-enriched challah, either homemade or store-bought.
Lightly dry or stale the bread cubes by leaving them out overnight or warm in a low oven for 15 minutes. This simple step helps prevents the bread from turning to mush when combined with the custard.
For this recipe we took two cues from Cook’s Illustrated
- First we use only egg yolks in the custard. They found that the sulfur compounds in egg whites can cause an overly eggy flavor. Using egg yolks in combination with the pumpkin puree made for a luscious, silky custard with no trace of egginess.
- Reserve two cups of the dried bread cubes to scatter on top before baking. These crispy, crunchy, buttery bites compliment the smooth custard below.
Finally, add some chopped nuts like pecans or walnuts and a nice sauce to compliment the pudding. This combination of flavors, textures and spices make for a humble, yet company worthy dessert perfect for the holidays. 🍁🎃🦃
Variations and add-ins
Besides changing up the bread you can also add finely grated orange zest to the custard mixture.
Switch out the bourbon with fresh squeezed orange juice or use Grand Marnier instead. Pumpkin and orange are great together. 🍊
If you and your family prefer walnuts, then by all means use those in place of the pecans. It’s all good!
How to store leftover Bread Pudding
Store leftover pumpkin bread pudding tightly covered in the refrigerator. Well-sealed bread pudding will keep for up to 5 days but is best eaten warm from the oven.
You can freeze bread pudding for up to 3 months in an airtight container. Be sure to skip the sauce until ready to serve.
Frozen bread pudding can be thawed overnight in the refrigerator, then set out at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Reheat individual pieces uncovered in a 450 degree oven until warmed through, about 5 to 10 minutes.
Make ahead Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce
The pudding can be made ahead and refrigerated for several hours or up to overnight. Once the bread cubes are soaked, pour into the prepared baking pan, cover and refrigerate.
Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking to come to room temperature. Continue with the recipe by adding the crusty bread cubes, butter and sugar topping along with the pecans. Bake and enjoy!
Make ahead bourbon sauce
The bourbon sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Warm gently over low heat on the stovetop.
How to serve Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Bread pudding is great served as is but is over the top delicious drizzled with this luscious bourbon sauce.
Another option is to dust the pudding with powdered sugar or top with ice cream, softly whipped cream or for a sweeter dessert add a drizzle of caramel sauce.
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Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce
For the pudding:
- 1 pound loaf challah bread cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 10 cups)
- 6 large egg yolks (whites reserved for another use)
- 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
- ¼ cup granulated sugar (55g)
- ½ cup light brown sugar (112g)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 4 cups half-and-half
- ½ cup whole milk (4oz)
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin spice
- ¼ cup bourbon (2oz) optional
For the topping:
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon coarse sugar or granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- ⅓ cup chopped pecans
For the bourbon sauce:
- 2 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
- ⅓ cup bourbon divided (2 ½oz)
- 1 cup heavy cream (8oz)
- ¼ cup granulated sugar (55g)
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter cut into small pieces
To prepare the pudding:
- Adjust the oven racks to the lower-middle and middle positions. Preheat oven to 300°F. Grease or butter a 13×9-inch baking dish and set aside.
- Place the bread cubes on two large rimmed baking sheets and bake until just dry, about 15 minutes tossing halfway through and switching the trays from top to bottom. Remove about 2 cups of the cubes and set aside. Increase oven temperature to 325°F.
- In a large mixing bowl whisk together the egg yolks, pumpkin puree, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, salt, half & half, milk, pumpkin spice and bourbon, if using. Add the remaining 8 cups of cooled bread cubes to the pumpkin mixture and toss to coat.
- Spoon the pudding into the prepared baking dish and let stand for 30 minutes. While the mixture is resting, occasionally press the bread into the custard with a spatula until all the cubes are well saturated.
- Spread the remaining bread cubes over the top and gently press into the custard.
To prepare the topping:
- Combine 2 tablespoons light brown sugar and 1 tablespoon coarse sugar. Brush 3 tablespoons of melted butter over the crusty bread cubes. Next sprinkle the brown sugar mixture and ⅓ cup chopped pecans evenly over the top.
- Place the pudding on a rimmed baking sheet and bake on the middle rack until the custard is just set, about 45 to 50 minutes. To check for doneness insert an instant-read thermometer into the center of the pudding. It should register 170°F. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 45 to 60 minutes before serving.
To prepare the bourbon sauce:
- While the pudding is cooling whisk together the cornstarch and about half the bourbon in a small bowl. Set aside. Heat the cream and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low and cook until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the butter, salt and remaining bourbon. Whisk until smooth.
- Drizzle warm bourbon sauce over slices of bread pudding and serve.
- If you can’t find challah bread try using a good-quality sandwich bread such as Arnold Country Classics White or Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Hearty White.
- Serve the pudding with bourbon sauce, softly whipped cream, ice cream, caramel sauce or dust with powdered sugar.
- Optional: Add 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest with the pumpkin. Replace the bourbon with Grand Marnier or fresh orange juice for extra orange flavor in both the pudding and sauce.
- Store leftover pumpkin bread pudding tightly covered in the refrigerator. Reheat individual pieces uncovered in a 450 degree F oven until warmed through, about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Warm over low heat on the stovetop. Bourbon sauce adapted from Cook’s Country
Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Bread pudding is a terrific dessert to make for company, potlucks and events. Everybody loves it and will be begging for the recipe.
If serving to children have a jar of caramel sauce on hand to drizzle in place of the bourbon sauce.
Enjoy the great pumpkin flavor, loads of warm autumnal spices and the fantastic textures in this homey favorite.